Since I was a small child, I was told I talked too much. In the first grade, the teacher created a special code on my report card adding the number “five” to the conduct row and wrote in “talking” which is currently on my permanent school record. My mother frequently reminds me of this and it is over forty-one years ago!
So, it was no surprise when my husband and I entered into the world of assisted reproductive therapies that my first means of coping about our current situation was to talk to my husband and I mean to talk a lot about it.
Mark was assigned the role of my “wing man” through this journey. Looking back now I realized I placed a great deal of responsibility onto him, not only was he responsible for his he-man sperm but he also was my sole confidante though out this time.
Placing Mark in sole confidante role turned out to add undue hardship onto our relationship and journey. Don’t get me wrong, Mark was right there listening to the doctor for our next step, and helping to create our fertility game plan. What needed to change in the “job description” of sole confidante were the boundaries.
You see, I would talk, talk, talk Mark would swing into Mr. Fix it mode. It took time for him to come to an understanding that by just listening he was doing so much for my mind, body, and soul. It is counterintuitive for men to “do nothing” while “doing something”.
With the first day of summer and Father’s Day quickly coming upon us, implementing this strategy now can help you both gain a greater sense of understanding while enjoying the summer fun!
Putting Duck and Dodge Strategy into Practice
It’s important to acknowledge from the start that there are different needs to be met when we share or update our partner on what is happening in our lives. So this strategy has three parts: one for the woman, one for the man, and one for both of them. For the most part, women want to be heard and understood. Men want to solve problems—their own, their friends’, and their partner’s. It is very difficult for men to just listen without taking action. They view their purpose in life to be providing for others and taking care of situations, and when they find their skills are not needed, it creates conflict between the parties.
When you just want to vent, start out by giving specific directions to your male partner or listener:
“You don’t have to fix any of this, I just want you to listen.”
This is a clear indication to the man about the type of communication coming his way.
This is probably best explained by using a boxing analogy. You are in the ring, facing your opponent (not that your partner is your opponent in real life, but for the purpose of this exercise, stick with for a minute), and you have your gloves on. The opponent throws the first shot, and you bend to the right to dodge the hit. The second shot is thrown, and you bend to the left and dodge that one, too. Just as if you’re in the ring, you duck and dodge all the verbal shots your partner is throwing your way. You’re light on your feet and you let them all go by, repeating to yourself, “I don’t have to fix that one, I’m just going to listen and let it fly by me.” As your partner vents, maintain eye contact with her and shake or nod your head appropriately. This will earn you enormous “great-husband” points while this exchange is happening. (This Duck-and-Dodge strategy is adapted from a similar concept proposed by Dr. John Gray, author of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.)
For Women and Men
Step Three involves acknowledgment from both sides. The woman says something like, “Thank you so much for listening. I know it’s hard for you just to listen, and I feel so much better.” Now the man expresses his appreciation for her ordeals of the day by saying some- thing like: “Boy, that must have been difficult for you,” “Do you need a hug?” and/or “C’mere, babe. Sorry you had such a lousy day.”
Implementing this strategy takes time and practice, but once you both get the hang of it, you will notice the carry-over effect of better communication and a stronger connection.
This article was written by Kristen Magnacca, author of Love & Infertility: Survival Strategy for Infertility, Marriage and Life.
Originally published at FertilityTies.com